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New study shows 12 percent of population suffers from chronic respiratory diseases

- ARJUN POUDEL, Kathmandu

Apr 8, 2019-

About 12 percent of the country’s population--aged 20 years and above--has been found to be suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a recent study suggests.

Increasing air pollution in urban areas--caused mostly by emission from vehicles and industries (particularly brick kilns) and poorly managed road widening drives--is the major reason for the rise in the cases of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, says the study published by the Nepal Health Research Council on Monday.

Likewise, indoor pollution--caused by the use of fire woods and burning of animal dung for cooking--has been found to be the major reason for the rise in the cases of respiratory diseases in rural areas, the study says.

The study was conducted among 13,200 individuals of 72 districts in the fiscal year 2016/2017. According to the council, a total of 400 clusters from urban and rural areas were selected for the study. Among them, 33 households were selected from each cluster using systematic random sampling for study.

“We have not included the cases of preliminary respiratory problems like asthma  in the study,” Dr Megnath Dhimal, a senior research officer with the council, told the Post. “Only those with chronic respiratory problems were included in the report.”

Prevalence of diabetes, coronary artery disease, chronic kidney disease and cancer was also studied among the participants during the study.

The report shows that 8.6 percent of the total population of the country has been suffering from diabetes, followed by chronic kidney disease (6 percent) and coronary artery diseases (3 percent).

“Males were found to be more at risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and respiratory diseases than females, because males are found to consume more tobacco and alcohol,” says the study.

The government provides financial support to patients having kidney disease and coronary artery disease and distributes free medicines to diabetic people from government health facilities. But there is no government facility for those suffering from chronic respiratory diseases.

It may be time for the authorities concerned to revise some policies as the new research shows a high number of people suffering from chronic respiratory diseases, say experts.

“We have conducted the study to help the concerned agencies of the government and other stakeholders to formulate a national policy on health,” said Dr Anjani Kumar Jha, chairman of the council. “Now it is up to the government whether or not it wants to offer help to patients of chronic respiratory diseases.”

According to Jha, a long-term policy is needed and different government agencies have to work in tandem to combat the rising problem of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“Promotion of electric vehicles and removal of industries and brick kilns near human settlements could help in combating the respiratory diseases,” said Dhimal, the senior research officer.

According to a report published by the US-based Health Effects Institute and the University of British Columbia last week, Nepal has the highest levels of air pollution—100 μg/m3—in the world where annual exposure to PM2.5 particulate matter can cause breathing difficulties and cardiovascular issues. The three other countries in the region with dangerous levels of pollution are India (91 μg/m3), Bangladesh (61 μg/m3) and Pakistan (58 μg/m3).  The report said that children in South Asia are worst hit by air pollution.

“Different agencies of the government should make concerted efforts to reduce dust pollution. We also need to change our energy sources to reduce household smoke pollution,” said Dhimal.

Published: 09-04-2019 06:30

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